Mac Pro 1,1 budget upgrades - should I bother?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by mrlament, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. mrlament macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2012
    Hi everyone,

    I'm a video editor currently working with a Mac Pro 1,1 with Dual Core Intel Xeons (2.66 Ghz), 2 GB of ram and a NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT with 258 MB of ram.

    I primarily edit HD video (often AVCHD, lots of basic editing and chroma keying as well as some basic titling & motion graphics)using the Final Cut Studio suite, Adobe CS5.5 (After Effects primarily) and Pro Tools for audio.
    I can't afford to buy a new Mac Pro, and whilst my current system is still holding up okay, I was wondering if there were any upgrades in the neighborhood of aproximately $500-$800 that would be worth doing on my current machine.

    Would a CPU, GPU or Memory upgrade be worth the money on my system, or should I just save the cash and wait a year or so until I can buy something newer? The system is working for me as is, but it would be nice if I could speed up render times and/or just generally make the system a bit peppier.

    Any advice?

  2. Neodym macrumors 68000


    Jul 5, 2002
    What you would need most IMHO is more Ram. Unfortunately you would need FB-DIMM's, which are becoming more expensive by the month. An inexpensive CPU upgrade to an 8-core system (by the means of a CPU swap) would be next on the list.

    However, with a decision about the future of the Mac Pro (discontinue or refresh) expected in the coming 2-3 months, I'd recommend to do nothing right now and wait.

    If the MP gets refreshed, prices for older models will go down, so you might be better off selling your machine and get a newer one with better specs instead of upgrading your current computer.

    If it gets discontinued, you might even see prices raising for older MP's, thus you could either invest into the above mentioned upgrades or sell your 1,1 and get e.g. a 2011 top-of-the-line iMac instead.

    In any case you should just wait a little more before taking any decision in this regard!
  3. arkitect macrumors 603


    Sep 5, 2005
    Bath, United Kingdom
    RAM first.
    2Gs is far too little.

    Then GPU upgrade.
    Radeon HD 5870…

    It is a fine machine and still gets things done.
  4. Toumak macrumors member


    Jul 26, 2010

    if you can wait a bit, you should spare a bit more money, and then sell the MacPro to buy a more recent one.

    Maybe you could already get a 2008 MP by selling yours today.
    This model is still great for video edition with its 8 cores...

    Well that's what I'd do ...
  5. JesterJJZ macrumors 68020


    Jul 21, 2004
    I have the same machine with Dual SSD Boot, 16gigs of RAM, and ATI 4870. Still going strong. Though looking at getting a new one soon.
  6. Neodym macrumors 68000


    Jul 5, 2002
    What for? Does any of the mentioned programs make use of the 3D capabilities of the 5870?
  7. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    If you are really constrained financially, I would do the following.

    Upgrade to at least 8GB of RAM
    Get a Radeon 5770
    Look at upgrading CPU's

    All of this is likely going to cost you upwards of $1000.00 so if you have the money to spend, one at a time, you can do the upgrade.

    Or you can look at taking that $1000.00, if you have it, and simply upgrading or selling your current machine and getting a used 2008 machine with more RAM.

    I can't imagine how you are able to do video editing on the system you have now with only 2GB of RAM, it must be painfully slow.
  8. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    It has been shown that the 5870 gives little benefit over the 5770 in the 1,1 Mac Pro. On a Win7 2010 Mac Pro the 5870 is easily 2x faster than 5770. Apples drivers, like always, suck. So don't waste your money.
  9. mrlament thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2012
    Thanks, everyone, for all of the input...

    As I suspected, it sounds like I shouldn't even be looking at CPU upgrades until I've updated my memory and my GPU, so I think I'll start there and see how the system 'feels' after those upgrades.

    One other question: Anyone have an idea of how my current dual processor Mac Pro 1,1 would compare to a newer machine with a single i7-2600 processor?

  10. dudleys100 macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2012
    I recently bought a 1,1 and here is what I have done:

    Added 8gb to make 16 gb of ram ($85)
    Dropped in 2 quad processors to make it an 8 core ($190)
    4890 Graphics card (flashed a pc card) ($70)

    Total upgrade $345

    Just the CPU upgrade with only 8 gig of ram at the time gave me a geekbench of just under 10,000. Not too shabby when a 1,1 is competing with a 2008 3.3ghz.

    I say go for it. It will launch new life into your computer.
  11. mrlament thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2012
    Thanks Dudleys - that's definitely within my budget and sounds like a good idea. Two things I'm not clear on with what you listed...

    1. What 2 quad processors did you manage to find for $190 (which model)
    2. When you say you got a 4890 and 'flashed a pc card'... what does that mean?



    Actually, a quick google search gave me the info on flashing the graphics card. Thanks for mentioning that, though, I didn't even know it was an option!

    Here's a good link for anyone else who finds this thread down the road:

    Now if I can just find out where to get Dudleys100's couple of processors so cheaply I should be in business! I'm excited! :D
  12. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    It's definitely slower. Geekbench doesn't tell you everything, but FWIW they had the top 2011 imac over 11000, and one of the other quad imacs around 10000. I really don't like imacs personally. While it's anecdotal, I've seen many more long term imac problems than mac pro problems, including how bad some of the displays look after a year or two. I haven't seen the newest ones, so it's always possible it could have been fixed.

    GPU should be one of your lesser concerns unless you need something like OpenCL (I don't know if that one supports it) or a later OpenGL version. Just be aware that if you mess up on flashing a card, you'll have a paperweight.
  13. mrlament thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2012
    Thanks thekev - just to be clear - when you say "It's definitely slower" do you mean the i7-2600k system or my mac pro 1,1?

  14. yellowbunny macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2010
    I have the Mac pro 1,1 that I use primarily for video. I've moved over to FCPX for most of my editing and upgrading the graphics card to 5770 really did make the Mac Pro like an entirely new system (using FCPX).

    I've also upgraded the RAM to 4GB (would like more) and have plans for an SSD one day. I'm planning on using this machine for a few years to come.
  15. js81 macrumors 65816


    Dec 31, 2008
    Get the RAM and then go from there. If you can get 8GB of RAM for ~$85, that will DEFINITELY get you the most bang for your buck. Once you get the RAM upgraded, you may not even feel the need for anything else (though I think a GPU upgrade is definitely in order).
  16. yellowbunny macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2010
    Where do you get the RAM for that price by the way? It's much more expensive in the UK...
  17. sfmacguy macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2006
    2006 mac pro tower

    i'm not upgrading my 2 towers as i've noticed that a replacement power supply is $400 and i'd rather prepare for the next thing.
  18. dudleys100 macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2012
    Flashing a PC card is the process of adding the necessary programming to the card so it can work on a Mac. I also agree that Geekbench does not measure everything, I am just pointing out that this computer will now "compete" in many ways to much newer Mac Pro's at least close enough that it is not worth the $2500 upgrade for me. I am a professional audio engineer and my previous computer was a custom built PC which I built that other than the quad core processor was roughly equivalent to a new Mac Pro concerning cache, buss speeds, ram speed etc. and this computer smokes the pants off of it.

    Here are the details of what I upgraded:

    8 GB Ram (no heat spreaders):

    X5355 2.66 GHZ processors were purchased on Ebay. If you keep your eye out you can get a pair fairly often for between $200 and $250

    It is true there are risks to flashing a GPU so know that risk going into it but if successful you can save a couple hundred bucks. The Zeus tool certainly makes this a lot easier now

    Next up an SSD :)
  19. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    The i7-2600K is significantly faster, but there are things I dislike significantly about the imacs, and it's a pretty long list. Everything on a five year old machine is going to be a bit slower, but I don't know without testing what is hurting you the most. It could be ram, scratch disks, cpu, or software related. It could be a combination. Whenever people post on here it doesn't typically contain enough detail for a really deep analysis. I kind of doubt the gpu is holding you back much. It's likely that you're facing an IO bottleneck in parts of your workflow. I might also suggest ensuring that spotlight doesn't index system files (add folders to privacy) or any drives that contain scratch data. It's all relative to what you're doing though. As an example if you're rendering a clip in After Effects, that will be cpu bound more than anything. An SSD for scratch isn't likely to speed it up by any meaningful amount there.

    I only mention the potential to brick a gpu because if someone is uncomfortable with it, they should consider simply buying a 5770. If scratch disks are an issue or the OP is dealing with a 32 bit bottleneck which seems as if it may be the case with at least FCP, an SSD can help. I wouldn't buy one just for faster application launches if you're trying to save money.

    Has ram without heat spreaders been tested as safe on those early ones? I always stuck to Apple's specs.
  20. dudleys100 macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2012
    I had done a little research on the heat spreader thing and found many that had done it without problems but its hard to say for sure. I guess time will tell ha ha :)
  21. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    I think you are taking a huge risk using that RAM without heat spreaders, who knows what kinds of problems or instabilities your system may have over time, but as you say, time will tell.

    Where did you manage to get two quad core CPU' for $190 and was that total or each? Which models were they?

    I think your budget upgrade price, is more the exception, then the rule. Certainly using that RAM at that price saves you money, but is it safe and should it be recommended to others?
  22. macagain macrumors regular


    Jan 1, 2002
    That's what I read too... so I got some sticks with just regular black heatsinks and put them in. They work fine, but their temps are about 15-22 degs higher than the ones with the "apple approved" ones. This was enough to cause the fans to never drop below around 800rpm. Not too big of a deal, but the difference between audible and inaudible to me. I ended up pulling them, and getting 4gb (2x2) of 3rd party sticks, but with the apple approved sinks. Mac is now back to idling at it's normal 500rpm. Got them for $59 from ebay... there are usually available.

    I've read that the copper heatsinks are better that the "regular", but didn't want to waste more time buying, and trying, and returning!
  23. dudleys100 macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2012
    Agreed on the risk without using the mac approved heat spreaders. To clarify however I never suggested someone else get non apple heat spreader ram, I am only suggesting he upgrade his computer if finances is an issue. I was just posting what I did and have been happy with thus far.

    I already posted the information about the processor models. The price I listed was for both of them. Right now there are pairs on Ebay for under $300 but you need to watch for a week or two to get closer to $200.

    If someone has the money I would first recommend getting a new computer, second upgrading their Mac Pro with apple approved parts, and third doing it the McGiver way like I did :) I also have built many custom audio pc's for companies for the last 5 years so I am not walking into this blind, but for the $1 it is hard to beat the performance I am getting right now. To top it off I bought my Mac Pro for $400 ha ha :) So I now have $745 into an 8 core Mac Pro with a 1GB graphics card, and 16gb of ram :)
  24. marq5 macrumors newbie

    Jan 8, 2012
    Hi MrL,

    It looks like you have gotten a lot of good advice already. I was basically in the same boat as you are. I do the same kind of stuff with my Mac Pro as you do.

    I decided to get a used Mac Pro 3,1 on ebay and transfer all the stuff I have collected for my 1,1 into that. I spent more money doing this than it sounds like you would like to (for the Nvidia Quadro alone). But if you do decide to invest in RAM and better processors for your 1,1 it might be nice to know that you can install them in a 3,1 later, if you decide to do a bigger upgrade at some point.

  25. dudleys100 macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2012
    That ram looks like a great deal. I would have paid the extra to have the heat spreaders if I would have seen that ram then.

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